We await the results of Chief Justice Peter Shivute and the Judicial Services Commission’s investigation into why the KORA awards court matter was illegally hidden from the public.
Noted lawyers and members of the legal community are outraged at a seeming attempt to ‘cover up’ public information about that case. We are gravely concerned that if the judiciary is also subject to self-interested manipulations of the ruling elite and powerbrokers, then the Land of the Brave has failed in its constitutional mission to provide equal justice for all.
Documents relating to the case which specifically accuse President Hage Geingob of involvement with the alleged conman antics of Benin-born Ernest Adjovi, were removed from the online e-justice portal. The illicit labelling of the Adjovi case as “In Camera” didn’t happen by magic - it is not an “Oops!” Person or persons unknown (for now), with malice aforethought, violated the law.
Individual(s) with access to the system, information about the data to be hidden and personal stake(s) in subverting the constitution of Namibia, dirtied their hands. In doing this, they sullied the very concept of having an independent judiciary in Namibia.
We applaud lawyers Norman Tjombe and Eben de Klerk who noted the illegal activity and blew the whistle. They publicly accused the judiciary of sliding down the slippery slope towards a co-opted court system when someone attempted to hide this case implicating President Hage Geingob and (now) Justice Minister Sackey Shanghala. The fact that this subterfuge occurred just before a national election where the president has just asked the public to believe in him and elect him for another term, is not insignificant.
Readers will recall the entire KORA awards scandal and subsequent egg on the country’s face. N$23.5 million was defrauded from the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) by a known dubious ‘businessman’ (Adjovi) who happened to be a ‘friend’ of President Hage Geingob. His full payment (before any work was completed) was approved by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism based on a contract approved by then Attorney-General and now Justice Minister, Sackey Shanghala.
The money was supposedly to pay for television advertising during an African awards program that never happened. Anjovi, a controversial character, took the money and ran. He has been pursued by the short arm of the Namibian law ever since a court case started in 2016. The NTB dragged him to court for a refund, only to be told that there was no way to implement a local civil court order in another country. Nevertheless, the legal pursuit continued with Adjovi magnanimously offering to return N$7 million of the N$23 million he stole. This ‘offer’ was correctly, rejected.
The bone of contention that caused the attempted masking of the president’s name entangled with this scandal is that Adjovi, in defending himself in the courts is claiming that as a friend the president, his “ties” to Geingob landed him the N$23 million deal to host the awards. Geingob has consistently accused Adjovi of misusing his name for personal benefit and has distanced himself from the conman since the fraud case emerged.
The merits of the case is less of a worry than the taint on the independent judiciary in Namibia. That is of severe concern.
The Namibia Law Association issued a statement condemning the judiciary for blocking access to court papers for the Adjovi/Kora case. They said that the Office of the Registrar’s refusal to allow the public to have access to this civil matter was, “unlawful, wrongful, and an undemocratic encroachment on civil liberties and the rights of citizens.” Never were better words spoken.
We can complain that our court system moves like a snail through wet cement. We can be outraged that people are held in holding cells for years while they await trial. We can lament imbalances where rich people convicted of murder can receive bail and run away while someone stealing a goat gets 20 years in prison on the spot. We can note that ‘big wigs’ can afford top lawyers and ‘better justice’ while the poor are overlooked, forgotten, are forced to fend for themselves. History teaches that without an honourable legal system, utter chaos and the physical dominance of the strong over the weak would prevail. Unless we each of us stands equally before the scales of justice, the entire constitution and what was fought for in the liberation struggle become meaningless.
The saboteur of democracy that altered the case records to show that trial as “In Camera” is a threat to everything this country stands for. In saying this, we are not being dramatic, we are being emphatic. He or she must be named, shamed, fired and prosecuted.
This is serious business. If such manipulations have been done in this case, one wonders in what other cases, where a whistle was NOT blown, similar things have been done. What future cases will it be done, should these democracy-stealers get away with it?
If people cannot know for a fact that their case will be heard without fear or favour, why bother with going through the legal system at all? Let us arm ourselves wild-west style and shoot it out on the streets at high noon to decide on the law.
Everywhere in the world, including Namibia, the rich and powerful have major advantages that quietly skew the system in their favour already. When information emerges (as in this case) revealing illegality in the judicial system, it must be pursued with urgency.
We urge the Chief Justice to proceed with speed and tenacity in this matter. Let the trail of those who have subverted justice in Namibia never grow cold. The people who physically inserted ‘In Camera’ into the records and those who ordered or manipulated this to happen, must face the very justice system they attempted to pervert.